6000 King Class
In the mid-1920s, with train load sizes increasing to and from the South West, the Great Western Railway was faced with the need for even more powerful locomotives, something that could haul the heavy expresses at an average speed of 60 mph. In response, the Great Western's General Manager, Sir Felix Pole, gave his Chief Mechanical Engineer, Charles Collett, permission to proceed with the design and construction of a ‘Super-Castle’, the result being the GWR 6000 King class 4-6-0 design which emerged from the Swindon Works in June 1927.
The first of the 'King' locomotives, 6000 King George V was completed in June 1927 and very shortly afterwards shipped to the USA, to participate in the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad centenary celebrations. Presented with a commemorative bell and plaques in recognition of its contribution, when King George V returned to Britain it was affectionately known as 'The Bell' until its withdrawal.
The decision to name the new class after the Kings of England was agreed by Collett in May 1927, with them being named in reverse chronological order starting from King George V. Only being able to operate over the Great Western's "Double Red Route", the Kings were confined to the West of England main line as far as Plymouth, via Newbury and Bristol, as well as the cut-off route from Paddington to Wolverhampton via Bicester. It was over these routes that the Kings came to be associated with the iconic Cornish Riviera Express and Cambrian Coast Express services, regularly reaching speeds of 100mph, but from 1959 they were gradually replaced on the west of England services by diesel-hydraulic power and from 1962 on the Paddington-Wolverhampton route.
By 31st December 1962 all had been withdrawn from service to face the cutter's torch or preservation.